UAAP: Kouame vows to return for Season 85 after disappointing end to MVP year

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2022 01:54 AM

Ateneo center Ange Kouame reacts after the Blue Eagles lost the UAAP Season 84 Finals against the UP Fighting Maroons. UAAP Media.
Ateneo center Ange Kouame reacts after the Blue Eagles lost the UAAP Season 84 Finals against the UP Fighting Maroons. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- A disappointed Ange Kouame feels as though he "let the people down" after the Ateneo Blue Eagles lost to the University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 84 Finals.

Kouame, who won MVP honors in Season 84, had 12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks but his efforts couldn't keep the UAAP crown on their side of Katipunan.

Instead, it is UP that is celebrating after JD Cagulangan hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Fighting Maroons to a 72-69 win in the deciding Game 3 on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

"I feel like I let the people down with this loss," a subdued Kouame said after the game. 

That he experienced great individual success meant little to Kouame in the wake of the loss -- the first time in his UAAP career that he had failed to win a championship. The Blue Eagles had been virtually unbeatable since Kouame debuted in Season 80, but they fell just short against a UP team that frustrated them defensively all series long.

"You might say [I had] individual success. But I dont think this is enough," said Kouame. "It's a sport of five people on the court. So, it's a team sport."

"Certainly, we finished second but we cannot go back where we come from. We'll try to figure it out. Next year is going to be better than this year," he vowed.

Kouame, a naturalized Filipino who is part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool, said in May 2021 that he has received offers to play abroad, even in the NBA G League. But after such a painful end to their season, his focus is on helping Ateneo return to the top of the mountain.

"I'll play next season," he said. "That's what I can say."

Kouame will undoubtedly be one of the leaders of an Ateneo team that is losing five seniors, including captain Gian Mamuyac. His coach, Tab Baldwin, has no doubt that Kouame will be up to the task, just as he has been ever since he stepped foot in the Ateneo campus.

"This is a young man that came to us with a lot of raw ability, a lot of promise," said Baldwin of Kouame's growth over the years. "He went out on the court and he didn't try to impress anybody. He just did what Ange Kouame does, he just pursued, relentlessly pursued."

"It's what he still does today, but he stacked on a lot of ability and a lot more understanding of the game. And that's what makes him such a highly valuable player," he added.

"But … the greatest value that he brings to our program is as a person. He might be the Most Valuable Player in the league, but he's one of the most remarkable people, certainly one of the most remarkable young men that I've ever met," said Baldwin. 

"I'm so proud of him. But there's a lot more to do and as he said, we have more work to get back to soon."